For many readers I suspect that one of the most appealing aspects of Regency life is its simplicity. In fact the day-to-day life of the well born may have been annoyingly busy but, in the fantasy world that most of us write, the characters live a life at a leisure pace the 21st century reader can only dream about. Or maybe enjoy on a solo vacation or a religious retreat.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I try to find a way to simplify a life that involves a lot of travel, mentoring some promising writers, welcoming spring with gardening, taking care of the endless threatening health issues and, oh yes, trying to work in writing and exercise
Believing in baby steps I no longer answer the phone and rely on people to leave messages which I can return at my convenience. Dinner is on the table as a finished meal only two or three nights a week thanks to a spouse who is okay with peanut butter and crackers (or occasionally will cook for both of us)
But I need to simplify not just eliminate. I could cancel our cable. That would end the distraction of TV but would not be fair to the rest of the household who depend on it for evening entertainment. Maybe I could reduce email to twice a day. But even that would take a good bit of time. Move to a less convivial neighborhood where neighbors do not stop in? Not an option if I want to stay married.
As I typed this I remembered the solution. I read it in the Washington Post years ago. A woman came to a therapist asking what she could do about a life that was out of control. His answer is THE ANSWER and I’m relieved that writing this post reminded me: IF YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR INNER LIFE YOUR OUTER LIFE WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSLEF.
Did that advice work for the patient? I have no idea but I will tell you it has always worked for me. Until I lose sight of it. So it’s back to evening meditation and extra time at church to just sit and absorb the silence. I KNOW it will work because it has in the past.
Tell me what is the beas advice you ever absorbed, acted on and discovered was the truth?
*In the pursuit of simplicity I have no pictures. Far from home and access to my photos!
Maybe Simplicity is a recurring yearning, an oscillation?
Maybe Simplicity is most alluring when one is embedded in “too much/too many;” later to be cheerfully abandoned after one has pared too much or too many.
Maybe the cycle of paring then rebuilding keeps us growing?
I always aspire to simplify, Mary. Sigh!
I do think your point about caring for one’s inner life is spot on. I do work on thinking positive, being grateful for what I have, and for not worrying about things before they happen.
My house is often a mess. I’m always behind on my writing, and there’s always something I should be doing, but if a friend wants to go to lunch, I always make time!
I wonder if part of the problem is doing what’s in front of you as opposed to what’s important to you. Ruthless prioritizing might be the answer. But I don’t actually know. 😉
I just got these two quotes on my “Simplicity” page-a-day calendar a couple days ago: “Remember this — very little is needed to make a happy life.” — Marcus Aurelius
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” –Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury
Just some food for thought!
I know the feeling of being pulled in too many directions at once, and the stress of trying to do everything. But I think you’ve hit the nail on the head–take time for yourself to just be. Silence. Meditation. Yoga. Long walks. Whatever it is that relaxes you, do it! When I’ve felt stressed I’ve done all of the above and it really works. The best part, is that it doesn’t even have to take all that long to rejuvenate yourself. Ten minutes of silence/meditation and I felt refreshed and ready to tackle everything.
Lists help too!
What great answers, Joy, Meredith, Diane and Elaine.
Joy there is enough in your comment to warrant discussion over a glass of wine or coffee. Let’s do that soon. The seasonal aspect strikes a chord…
Diane, totally and completely yes about finding time for lunch!
Meredith, is life as busy busy busy where you are now as it was in the DC area? Or just busy busy busy in a different way?
Elaine, Marcus and I agree but only in theory. Very little is needed to make a happy life for sure and I know that. But people are an essential part of that happy life for me and that’s where the complications set in!
Why do we all think we can have it all? We try to balance and shift and discipline the activities, phone calls and relationships, but are often left with the same pressured feeling that we haven’t accomplished ‘Enough’. The answer? Want less.
HA! How in the hell does one get there?
Hi Emelle. I do think we can have it all. Just not at the same time. Kids, career, marriage, friendships all take the lead over the years. If we’re watchful in the end they balance out. I think you are an excellent example of that.
For me as long as I write every day — and remember to take care of that inner life — then all is good.
Thank you to all who commented so far. “Talking” always clarifies issues for me.
Thought-provoking post, Mary! I am constantly striving to simplify and de-stress my life, but it is an ongoing project. So many things I truly WANT to do – write, research, read, garden, rest – but they are superseded by the things I HAVE to do – work, take care of Mom’s finances, take care of my pets, fix the constant kaleidoscope of things that break down around the house.
Work is trying to become a source of constant stress at this point and I have had to make peace with the fact I may not be working for Walmart much longer. And the thought is frightening financially, but such a RELIEF spiritually and mentally, not to mention physically. Our store is about to become and academy store – the place where they train assistant managers and department managers from all over the country. As a result we now have two sets of management and constant assessments from auditors from the home office to make certain we are a PERFECT store. In true Walmart form these people all contradict each other and are constantly brow-beating us to work faster, harder and to be well, perfect. I have decided to simply go to work, do my job and if that is no longer good enough they are welcome to let me go. I hope they do. Because frankly being perfect is tiring as hell !!